Category Archives: Education

Expanding Our 2014 Boycott List: #BoycottLoblaws

First, it started with IKEA, which has been locking out its Richmond, BC workers for 11 months. Then it expanded to a white Richmond farmer who isn’t all that happy with all the non-white farmers changing the complexion of farming in BC.

So we’re all committing to #BoycottIKEA and boycotting W & A Farms products.

Now, it’s Loblaws/ExtraFoods/T&T/RealCanadianSuperstore that needs a hefty, long-term boycott.

A portion of every dollar you spend at any of that chain’s stores goes to fund the anti-social Fraser Institute and its campaigns to destroy the public education system in Canada.

The [Weston] family foundation has donated nearly $22 million to the Fraser Institute for its programs to destabilize the public education system and promote school choice and vouchers.

Milton Friedman was the inspiration for these programs. His 1995 Washington Post editorial said it all: “Public schools: Make them private.” And that’s what the Weston-Fraser partnership has set out to do.

But, wait, there’s more!

The Fraser Institute’s ability to obtain such vast sums from Weston may hinge on the fact that two Galen Weston cousins are Fraser Institute directors. They’re also on the board of the family foundation that doles out the money.

And it’s fine for people to express opinions and fund whatever they way. Within constitutional limits. But it’s also within our rights to oppose and boycott companies that are reprobates with anti-social tendencies.

So the 2014 boycott list is hereby expanded:

  1. IKEAs all around the world, #BoycottIKEA
  2. W&A Farm products from Richmond
  3. All Loblaw chain stores: #BoycottLoblaws

Sing it, people! 🙂

Who Is the Least Qualified to Evaluate Teachers?

Let’s say you don’t employ public school teachers. Let’s say you make millions of dollars. Let’s say you earn sometimes hundreds of times more money than the lowest paid worker in your organization. And let’s say you may not have even attended public school in Canada?

So what should you do? Release a report on how to pay public school teachers because…YOU’RE A CEO!

Continue reading Who Is the Least Qualified to Evaluate Teachers?

Greed + Government Cuts Erode Society [Bah, Humbug!]

The greedy and selfish among us are NOT on our side.

Happy Christmas Eve!

I hope you’re all giving lots of money to charities because ’tis the season and all that. But what happens if generally, as a society, we can’t or won’t give so much?

Coupled with public sector social service cuts, a decline in charitable giving creates preventable suffering.

But the Fraser Institute is a big fan of the charitable giving solution to public sector cuts. What do they have to say about that this year? It’s not good.

Continue reading Greed + Government Cuts Erode Society [Bah, Humbug!]

Fried Squirrels

It’s a crisp, foggy November Saturday morning in the south side of the city. Seventeen people sit in the large open area at the back end of an organic fair trade coffee shop run by a workers’ co-op inspired by the Mondragon movement in Spain. Meet-ups like this are quite common in this shop.

The male and female co-facilitators move briskly through the agenda with the help of the nodding volunteer maintaining the speakers list. There are sporadic jazz-hand gestures, common from the Occupy Movement, as well as a strict yet comfortable group norm of only one person speaking at a time, and succinctly, because of the elaborately carved talking stick that moves around the room.

Continue reading Fried Squirrels

Day One, Post-Mandela

Today is the first day of our world after the Nelson Mandela era.

We don’t need to canonize him or consider any messiah characteristics, but we should stop today and reflect on what kind of Mandela legacy we want to carry forward.

Here are a few ideas to consider.

Continue reading Day One, Post-Mandela

Does Racism Motivate Harper’s Aboriginal Education Funding Stance?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MP's applaud after then-National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine, right, spoke in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 11, 2008.
The Prime Minister’s slow clap.

It could be racism.

It could be concern that over time too many first nations citizens may get too educated and start demanding more in terms of inter-national justice.

Or…

Continue reading Does Racism Motivate Harper’s Aboriginal Education Funding Stance?

The First Day of School, 2013: Beware!

Work to enrich students' lives and minds, not teach them to be serfs!
Work to enrich students’ lives and minds, not teach them to be serfs!

Well, a new school year is about to begin, so it’s time to analyze just how much destruction the 1% will visit upon public education this year. Defunding, corporatization of curriculum, standardization of curriculum and experience, high-stakes testing, homogenization of experience…you know, the same old nonsense that drove me from teaching high school about a decade ago.

And it’s getting worse.

But who is is this vague 1%? Neoliberal governments and their “apostles,” which includes the BC NDP of the 1990s with some of their “reforms” as well as the usual suspects of the global power elite.

If the right-wing billionaires and apostles of corporate power have their way, public schools will become “dead zones of the imagination,” reduced to anti-public spaces that wage an assault on critical thinking, civic literacy and historical memory.

via When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto.

McMaster’s Henry A. Giroux has written this foundational piece, which all school teachers, administrators and parents ought to read before Labour Day. You can agree with it, disagree with it [with whatever ulterior motives you carry], or debate it, but don’t ignore it.

And if you haven’t been one of the 10.4 million viewers of the graphic adaptation of a portion of Ken Robinson’s brilliant lecture on why schools were designed as factories for obedient workers…and how to fix them!, then enjoy this. It will inspire you after reading Giroux’s piece!

We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

The following is a piece written by contributor Kevin Harding and guest contributor Natalie Gan.  The piece was written in 2010, but is being published on Politics Respun for the first time.

The issue of controversial corporate donations to public universities is a live one, with the Munk School at the U of T, the Ridell Program in Political Management at Carleton, and others being more and more discussed. Below is a discussion of the Goldcorp donation to Simon Fraser University.

We don’t want your dirty gold!

The pervasiveness of neoliberal capitalism and its continued impacts on every facet of our daily lives are realities that seem to be, all at once, immediately pressing, immense, and impossible to challenge. Recent experiences at Canadian universities and in the arts reinforce the immensity of the challenge, with corporate ‘donations’ being offered to cash-strapped institutions, continuing both the precariousness of public education as well as its marketization, or corporate patronage of the arts, commodifying art as a product of cultural expression to be sold.  Worse, many of these donations— essentially purchases of commodified reputation or goodwill —come from corporations that have been accused of enormous violations of environmental, ethical, and human rights laws and standards.  Adding to this already deep pile of problematics, some recent donations link areas of life that have not yet been fully ‘neoliberalized’ or completely and forcibly subjected to the vagaries and whims of the market, like education and the arts, with the realities of mining and resource extraction in the global south, solidly connecting different cycles and processes of capitalism and uniting them in a frenzy of accumulation by dispossession and capitalist expansion.

Continue reading We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

What Does Adbusters Ask of You in 2013?

From the people who suggested the modest idea of occupying Wall Street, Adbusters has sent out a new half dozen suggestions to fix the economic cancers of capitalism. Here’s my favourite, and it’s a little policy wonky: Continue reading What Does Adbusters Ask of You in 2013?

Privatization Via Blackmail

If you want to see why there isn’t much of a real left wing in the USA, this graph of those seeking the White House in 2008 pretty much covers it.

2008 US presidential candidates show little actual left wing juice.

If you want proof of how the neoliberal US Democratic Party is like the neoliberal Harper Conservatives, see this great piece:

Rahm Emanuel is not just any Democrat. He was Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, responsible for hiring many of the Obama administration’s key personnel. One of Obama’s appointees, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is a former “Chief Executive Officer” of the Chicago public school system. In Chicago he had promoted the expansion of for-profit charter schools.

In Washington, Secretary Duncan developed the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” program to encourage states to privatize their schools. The funding was structured as a competition. All 50 states adopted the Race to the Top program in hopes of receiving scarce federal funding during a severe recession; only 12 actually received any grants. The tournament format was designed to ensure maximum institutional impact for the smallest possible investment.

For a federal government to put a privatization condition on public education funding is not very left wing. It would be like a federal government saying to municipalities that to rebuild ageing infrastructure they can only get federal money if they privatize their projects, which is exactly what Canada’s Conservative government did with PPP Canada as cities and regions try to fund our $200 billion national infrastructure deficit.

PPP Canada works with provincial, territorial, municipal, First Nations, federal and private partners to support greater adoption of public-private partnerships in infrastructure procurement. To be eligible for a P3 Canada Fund investment, the infrastructure project must be procured, and supported by a province, territory, municipality or First Nation (i.e., a public authority).

When Obama’s policies are the same as Harper’s policies, we can see the gaping hole in any functional left wing in the USA. And let’s not be so complacent as to let the provincial and federal NDP slide to the right.